CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) – The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) is alerting people that a cat in Urbana was recently diagnosed with tularemia, a disease that is transmissible to humans.
Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis found in animals. F.tularensis bacteria can be transmitted to humans via the skin when handling infected animal tissue.
Infection can also occur when hunting or skinning infected rabbits, and by inhaling dust or aerosols contaminated with F.tularensis bacteria. This can happen during farming or landscaping activities, especially when machinery like mowers or tractors run over infected animals or carcasses.
People can also become infected by being bitten by ticks carrying tularemia.
Human infection can range from asymptomatic illness to life-threatening.
Symptoms typically include the abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache and fatigue following an incubation period of two to 10 days. If you develop symptoms of tularemia see your health care provider.
Animals that have been known to become ill with tularemia including rabbits, muskrats, prairie dogs and other rodents. Domestic cats are very susceptible to tularemia and have been known to transmit the bacteria to humans. Cats may develop a variety of symptoms including high fever, mouth ulcers, depression, enlarged lymph nodes and anorexia.
To reduce the chance that you or your family members will become infected, the health department offers the following advice:
- Wear tick protection when outdoors
- Do not mow over sick or dead animals
- Do not handle wild animals
- Cook wild game meat thoroughly before eating and use gloves when handling the animal and preparing the meat for cooking
- Take any pet with symptoms of tularemia to the veterinarian
To reduce the chances that your cat will become infected:
- Do not allow your cat to hunt outdoors
- Consult with your veterinarian to make sure your cat is protected from tick bites
- Report any unexplained large die-offs of rodents or rabbits to CUPHD
When removing a dead rabbit from your yard, use two plastic trash bags and wear gloves. Keep the rabbit away from your face and pick it up with gloved hands or a shovel and place it into the trash bag, then double bag and place in the trash. If you use a shovel, place it in a five-gallon bucket with water using one cup of bleach per gallon of water. Let the shovel sit for a half hour to disinfect. Keep the bucket out of reach from children and pets.
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